"How did they get that sound?"
An age old question often asked. It's why guitarists obsess over the picks The Edge uses, why mixers hang on Bob Clearmountain's and Chris Lord-Alge's every word, and why there are hundreds of YouTube videos out there showing you how to nail some dubstep "wub wub" bass.
We hear something we love, then we want to know how to get there. Oftentimes there's no easy answer.
I firmly believe that if Joe Schmoe guitar player was able to get ahold of SRV's strat, his twin, and tube sreamer, Joe would still not sound anything close to SRV.
The instant you hear Stevie Ray kick into Pride & Joy, you know it's him. His sound? Iconic.
In the same way, great artists and their music have a sonic signature. Their sound definitely matures and develops over time, but each piece they produce has that certain it about it.
That one certain something.
As a mastering engineer, I make sure that "something", the sonic signature, in every piece of music I work on gets translated to its audience clearly. I discover what makes a project tick, then capitalize on it in the most complimentary and natural way possible.
With your own productions, by all means try to go after sounds and artists you admire. Learn their methods. Experiment. These endeavors will add to your toolbox and give you more flexibility as a musician, producer, and engineer.
What sonic signatures have influenced you most?